Catching Up on – AI’s Promethian moment – No C-18 sparks at Biden-Trudeau summit – TikTok under fire – Heritage MPs back off inquisition

March 25, 2023

In last weekend’s update we spotlighted Chat-GPT, the rapidly evolving AI tool based on ‘Large Language Model’ technology.

This weekend’s recommended read is New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s view that this tool and/or weapon heralds the modern world’s arrival at a ‘Promethian’ moment of hope and dread.


Meetings like this week’s Ottawa visit by US President Joe Biden to discuss Canadian-American relations with the Prime Minister usually include the hot trade issues of the day.

As the New York Times observed beforehand, the two leaders ‘are likely to go through the ritual…of griping about some perceived trade injustice by each other’s country.’

Certainly Justin Trudeau wanted to talk about Biden’s ‘Buy America’ program for government-funded domestic projects.

Internet activist Michael Geist predicted a high noon moment between the two leaders that would feature American disgruntlement with ‘serious trade tension’ he suggests exists because of Canada’s various Internet-related initiatives including Bills C-11 and C-18. Geist wasn’t alone in anticipation, several press reports speculated a discussion of that legislation was imminent.

The visit came and went without trade griping and posturing on Internet legislation or any other trade issues, judging from the leaders’ joint statement which was preoccupied with far more existential matters.

There is one thing of which we should remind ourselves when the US President (or the Canadian Prime Minister) give voice to trade concerns: a trade ‘concern’ is not necessarily any indication of a plausible violation of our trade treaties, the global GATT regime and trilateral CUSMA deal.

In the case of the Canadian legislation for Online News (C-18) and Online Streaming (C-11), Biden’s US Trade Representative and his Ambassador to Ottawa have both dutifully advocated for blue-state Californian interests in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, much in the way the parents of the schoolyard bully like get in the teacher’s face.

An American complaint on C-18 would be particularly without merit, as the University of Calgary’s Hugh Stephens has patiently outlined here and here.

It’s disappointing when Canadians uncritically endorse American trade pressure because they don’t like C-18, a piece of legislation supported by three out of four Canadian political parties and endorsed in principle (in the 2021 election) by the fourth.

This happens every time there is a cross-border disagreement about Canada’s cultural legislation. On that point, MediaPolicy took a little trip down memory lane here and here.

Suffice it to say, there are so many other legitimate policy arguments to be made about C-18 without Canadians giving encouragement to US commercial interests making bogus trade claims.

Last word on this for now: it ought to be noted in the case of C-18 that American interests don’t even speak with one voice, as the US NewsMedia Alliance supports C-18 and an American version of it which is stalled in Congress.


It’s not that American politicians are averse to putting the screws to Big Tech if not headquartered in their own country.

This week Congress gave a proper Washington hazing to TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi over the security of personal data with the threat of banning the Chinese-owned social media application from US soil.

Banning an app in America. Ponder that a bit.

The Washington Post report of the Congressional hearing is helpful: the bottom line is legislators were not buying TikTok’s privacy solution which is to re-shore its American data and keep it on an American company’s servers in Texas.


To be fair to US legislators, our Parliamentarians do a little Big Tech hazing from time to time.

We mentioned last week that the Liberals on the Heritage Committee got carried away by demanding Meta produce evidence of its corporate communications with private Canadian citizens about Bill C-18.

This past Monday the Liberals wisely backed down and reworded the offending the summons based on Conservative MP Rachael Thomas’ suggestion (who then abstained on the vote). Here’s the Globe and Mail report on that.

Critics were quick to point out that the same inappropriate demand for citizen communications remained in a previous summons issued to Google. But the inconsistency was ignored in Committee, perhaps because MPs from all parties hadn’t been paying close enough attention when unanimously approving the earlier wording of the Google summons.

Perhaps Google will ignore that aspect of the Committee’s request and MPs will look the other way.


Here’s our plug for Mark Goldberg’s blog Telecom Trends that posted a series this week about Internet and wireless pricing.

Monthly broadband and cell phone bills might be the most politicized consumer policy issue going and this industry expert offers a helpful rigour about the facts that laypersons will appreciate.


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Howard Law

I am retired staff of Unifor, the union representing 300,000 Canadians in twenty different sectors of the economy, including 10,000 journalists and media workers. As the former Director of the Media Sector and as an unapologetic cultural nationalist, I have an abiding passion for public policy in Canadian media.

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